Friday, February 11, 2011

A Divided Iran

Although I have many sympathies with the Green Movement in Iran, indeed some of my dearest friends have suffered extreme injustices, I cannot help but think that the Islamic Republic's negative response to a recent request by Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi for a demonstration on Monday to support the Egyptian and Tunisian revolutions is justified. Today 22 Bahman is the annual celebration of the anniversary of the Islamic Republic and if the opposition really wanted to create a better Iran they would unite with their opponents to celebrate the country's victory over the Shah and honor the dignity of the Arab protesters. They do not have to support these causes for the same reasons, just stand together as one people. But it seems that the opposition is intent on maintaining a divided nation, an accusation they also hurl back at the regime. Because when Karroubi admits to The New York Times that he wants to protest Iran's government on Monday, not demonstrate to support the Egyptians and Tunisians, this illustrates that the original request for a rally was disingenuous.

Iran Presses Opposition to Refrain From Rally

By Willaim Yong
The New York Times
February 10, 2011

TEHRAN — Iran’s authorities have increased pressure on the country’s political opposition days before a rally proposed by opposition leaders in support of the popular uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt.

Security forces stationed outside the home of the reformist cleric Mehdi Karroubi, one of the country’s most prominent opposition leaders, prevented Mr. Karroubi’s son from seeing his father on Thursday, according to the son, Hossein.

In an interview with an Arabic-language news Web site, Al Arabiya, Hossein Karroubi, who is politically active, said that the security forces told him that other family members, except his mother, were also barred from seeing his father.

The elder Mr. Karroubi and another government critic, Mir Hussein Moussavi, had submitted a formal request to the government to hold the rally on Feb. 14. Opposition Web sites have also reported the arrest of a number of people associated with the two opposition leaders. On Wednesday night, Taghi Rahmani, an activist close to Mr. Karroubi, and Mohammad-Hossein Sharifzadegan, a former welfare minister and an adviser to Mr. Moussavi, were arrested at their homes by Iran’s security forces. The Web sites also reported Thursday that two reformist journalists had been arrested.

On Wednesday, Iran’s top prosecutor, Gholam-Hossein Mohseni-Ejehi, said that the request to hold a demonstration separate from the annual government-sponsored rally to mark the anniversary of the Islamic Revolution, scheduled for Friday, was “political” and “divisive.”

“Setting a different date means that these individuals are separating themselves from the people and creating divisions,” Mr. Mohseni-Ejehi said in comments reported in the semiofficial news agency ILNA, referring to the opposition leaders who called for the rally. Iran has expressed official support for the antigovernment movements in Egypt and Tunisia, but supporters of Iran’s opposition criticize that stance as hypocritical, given the government’s brutal suppression of Iranian protesters who took to the streets after the disputed re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2009.

“If they are not going to allow their own people to protest, it goes against everything they are saying, and all they are doing to welcome the protests in Egypt,” Mr. Karroubi said in an interview with The New York Times earlier this week via an online video link.

The last opposition protests against the elections were held more than a year ago and were halted after the government crackdown killed scores and left many government critics imprisoned.

Neil MacFarquhar contributed reporting from the United Nations.

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